Whaling and shipbuilding dominated the New England coast in the 1800s, but rum, the favored drink of seafarers for centuries, was already the region's most popular drink in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. But with the end of the Atlantic slave trade, and the rise of spirits made from grain, New England's take on the swashbuckling hooch disappeared from the market. Now distilleries from Rhode Island to Maine are bringing back handcrafted rums as stylistically different as they are palatable. "Most of the rum in the world was once made in Newport," says Brent Ryan of the Newport Distilling Co., which began producing its Thomas Tew Rum in 2006. "We wanted to bring back a tradition."
Newport Distilling Co., Thomas Tew Rum (Newport, RI)
Named after a famous Rhode Island pirate, this dark rum has distinctive notes of oak and sweet spice. "Barrel aging now is something you do to improve the spirit," says Ryan. "Three-hundred years ago, it was just the packaging." [$30; thomastewrums.com]